McDowell hangs tough in Valderrama

Graeme McDowell (L) and Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland stand on the second hole during the final round of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Sotogrande, Spain (Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters)

Graeme McDowell (L) and Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland stand on the second hole during the final round of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Sotogrande, Spain (Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters)


Golf:Graeme McDowell’s year just gets better and better after he won the war of attrition against two fellow Irishmen to land the €3 million Andalucia Masters at a treacherous Valderrama layout in Spain today.

The final day saw the US Open champion lock horns with fellow northerner Gareth Maybin in the final group with Damien McGrane hot on their heels alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blustery conditions, tight tree-lined fairways and small greens made for a white-knuckle ride to the finish line. A premium was placed on pars rather than birdies as the Old Lady of European golf bared her teeth.

Experience told in the end as McDowell closed out his third win of the season with a closing 74 for a three under 281 winning aggregate as he went on to lift the €500,000 winner's cheque.

“It’s very special to win here and I draw a lot of comparisons with Pebble Beach (where he won the US Open Championship in June)," beamed McDowell afterwards.

“It was a war of attrition and the last man standing really. Damien and Gareth are both grinders in their own right and I was just happy that I could eventually get the job done.”

“It really has been a special season and I couldn’t imagine it would have gone the way it has,” added G-Mac after his thrid win of the season and a big move closer to Martin Kaymer's lead on the money list. “I’m very excited. I’ve punched a bit of a hole in Martin’s lead and I’ll go to Shanghai now and look to give him a run for his money.”

McGrane may have pitched in twice and was leading the tournament with three holes to play but he haemorrhaged shots on the closing stretch and had to settle for a three-way tie for second on one under alongside Maybin and Soren Kjeldsen. The Dane matched the low round of the day, a two under 69. The top four were the only players in the select 96-man field to break par.

Every player was beaten down by the Sotogrande layout but McDowell, riding on the crest of a wave this year, knew how to get the job done. With a two shot lead standing on the 18th he sensibly played the par four as a par five to avoid any unnecessary pitfalls.

For McGrane he tested the boundaries of the course at 16 and again at 17. At the 16 he pulled his approach but somehow stayed in bounds while at 17 he was so far right the Meath pro played his third to the infamous par five just inches from the stone boundary wall.

The 39-year-old was clearly rattled and eventually came home in double-bogey, bogey, bogey (17 shots to be precise) in a closing round of 72 to put paid to any chances of winning his second tour title to add to the China Open he won in 2008.

In Maybin's case, he got off to another miserable start with three bogeys but kept his composure to stay in touch. With the prominent cork trees everywhere, he played one shot too may into the woodwork and was ultimately not accurate enough to challenge McDowell by closing with a 76 but was still happy with the finish and the €223,710 both he, McGrane and Kjeldsen picked up.

“It’s probably one of the most enjoyable weeks that I’ve had,” said Maybin. “To come up two shots shy was probably the right result but I’m very proud of how I bounced back and I’ll take a lot from that.”

McGrane left to rue a nightmare finish. “I had plenty of good fortune, but to hand it all away at the end was disappointing,” he said. “I didn’t hit any bad shots, I just got fliers when I didn’t need them. But that’s Valderrama - when it bites, it bites hard.”

McDowell is certain to move inside the world's top 10 tomorrow and has reduced Kaymer's lead almost in half in the Race to Dubai standings. Instead of being the best part of €1million behind the German, the 31-year-old is little over €500,000 adrift and within sight as the game's leading lights head east for next week's HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Kaymer closed with a 75 for a for a seven over 291 aggregate and missed out on the chance to take Tiger Woods' world number one spot. That went to the injured Lee Westwood, who now takes over at the top with Woods and co hoping to have something to say about that in China next week.

Of the other Irish players Shane Lowry signed off with a 75 to be six over, two ahead of Darren Clarke and four ahead of Michael Hoey as all three shot 75s. Peter Lawrie dropped back to 13 over after a 77.

Collated scores and totals

281 Graeme McDowell 68 67 72 74

283Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 71 75 68 69, Damien McGrane 68 73 70 72, Gareth Maybin 69 68 70 76

284Thomas Bjorn (Den) 72 69 71 72, Joost Luiten (Ned) 74 69 72 69

285Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 70 70 71 74, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71 70 73 71

287Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Ind) 71 73 72 71

288Anthony Wall 72 73 71 72, Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa) 73 72 73 70, Steve Webster 73 74 69 72, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 70 73 69 76

289Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 70 71 72 76, Robert Jan Derksen (Ned) 70 71 72 76, Ross Fisher 71 73 72 73, Ignacio Garrido (Spa) 71 76 70 72

290Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra) 74 67 75 74, Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 73 69 75 73, Shane Lowry 73 71 71 75

291Robert Rock 71 74 71 75, Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 71 75 70 75, Richard Green (Aus) 72 71 73 75, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 72 74 70 75, Gregory Havret (Fra) 74 70 71 76

292David Drysdale 73 72 76 71, James Kingston (Rsa) 71 70 73 78, David Howell 76 71 70 75, Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra) 72 73 76 71, Darren Clarke 72 70 75 75, Peter Hedblom (Swe) 71 70 76 75, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa) 71 71 77 73

293Oliver Wilson 74 72 71 76, Jamie Donaldson 72 73 74 74

294Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 73 73 78, Soren Hansen (Den) 70 75 75 74, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 74 70 75 75, Thomas Levet (Fra) 73 71 74 76, Michael Hoey 70 72 77 75

295Chris Wood 72 74 73 76, Marc Warren 75 72 75 73, Niclas Fasth (Swe) 73 66 76 80, Rafael Echenique (Arg) 71 71 76 77

296Anthony Kang (USA) 73 72 68 83, Gary Boyd 71 69 78 78, Shiv Kapur (Ind) 69 78 72 77

297Peter Hanson (Swe) 72 74 71 80, Peter Lawrie 72 74 74 77, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 66 77 76 78

299Martin Wiegele (Aut) 73 74 76 76, Stephen Gallacher 75 71 77 76

300Oskar Henningsson (Swe) 71 76 74 79, Santiago Luna (Spa) 72 74 76 78

301Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 72 75 75 79